Sunday, September 28, 2008

Shelbyville Paper Reporter Questioned Janell Ross's Factual Accuracy in a Previous Story

It appears that Janell Ross's recent report on North End neighborhoods is not the only time she has been accused of not being factual. Shelbyville Times-Gazette reporter Brian Mosely also questioned the accuracy of the statistics that Janell Ross reported in an August piece regarding the clash of Somali and American cultures in Shelbyville.

A conservative blog, which was critical of Ross, asked Mosely for a response to Ross's clash of cultures story, and the blog quotes him as saying:
I have to call into question the figures given for the Somali population in the Tennessean piece. The Imam who is quoted in this article says ,"between 2,000 and 3,500 of Shelbyville's residents — or roughly 20 percent — are Somalian." The same man told me in December of last year there are only 250 to 300. At the most, there are 500 Somali refugees in Shelbyville. The Tennessean's numbers would mean that there are more Somalis than Hispanics, who make up a small, yet considerable percentage of Bedford County's population. It would also mean that if only 250 work at Tyson (the latest figures I have from Tyson are 227 Somalis) then that would mean that less than 10 percent of the refugees are working, and that is simply not the case.
I do not think it is remarkable that a conservative blog responded negatively to Ross's piece, and I do not want to assume the veracity of their seeming anti-immigrant spin in other parts of the post, but it is noteworthy that Janell Ross's most basic grasp of facts as they exist in a community she does not live in is being questioned by others who have first-hand experience to the contrary.

I've already pointed out that Ross misplaced 7th Avenue as a neighborhood border in last Monday's story, so she is not above making factual errors (although she seems to be above acknowledging and correcting those errors). But even more troublesome than the factual errors is what looks like a penchant for running exclusively with interview subject feedback that fits her interpretation of what is happening and ignoring controverting perspectives and countervailing data.

In the case of Monday's story, Ross ran with one man's unverified personal belief that police were summoned by a woman who passed by him (and Ross extrapolated from that incident that police are "plagued" by racist suspicious person phone calls). In August's story, if Mosely's criticism is true, Ross accepted the Somalian Imam's estimates on numbers of Somalis in Shelbyville without fact checking them or at least calling up a local paper to see if there were any contradicting reports.

In both cases, either Ross failed to get all of the data or she deliberately left some data out of her accounts. Consequently, her reportage seems either inept or vicious. In the case of Salemtown, it has been rejected by Metro Police, it does not fit with the typical ways that a number of us make suspicious person calls, and it could have a chilling effect on preventing crime in urban neighborhoods.

1 comment:

  1. Just a heads up: Brian Mosely recently misreported that Tennessee carry permits increased in Tennessee by more than 18,000%. Yes, 18 THOUSAND percent.

    It actually decreased. If you google it, you'll find his paper's correction online, but it never minetions the mistake that sat there for several days. I don't even think the print edition bothered to mention the correction and just left the readers believing it.